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Last Updated: Friday, 21 May, 2004, 14:33 GMT 15:33 UK
Barker recalls her golden moment

By Sue Barker
The last British player to win the French Open in 1976

I was really excited about the French Open in 1976 because I knew I had a really good chance of lifting the trophy.

Chris Evert was the number one clay-court player at the time but she wasn't playing, and I felt confident that I could beat everyone else.

BARKER'S GRAND SLAM BEST
Sue Barker in action at Wimbledon
Aus Open: Semi-finals 1977
French Open: Winner 1976
Wimbledon: Semi-finals 1977
US Open: 4th round 1976

I was the world number four and I had been in good form leading up to the tournament, winning three titles on clay, including the German Open.

Clay was definitely my best surface, along with cement, but I never felt comfortable on grass - it just didn't suit my game.

And I always enjoyed playing at Roland Garros, especially on Court Centrale.

It is quite gladiatorial.

The stands at Wimbledon's Centre Court sweep upwards, but on Court Centrale they bank very steeply so it can be very intimidating, especially with the French crowd.

They can be quite demanding, but I never really noticed it when I was playing - and in 1976 I was lucky because I didn't face any French players.

I had one really tricky match in '76, winning 8-6 in the third set against Regina Marsikova, and that was the point at which I really started to think about winning the whole thing.

On the morning of the final, I was absolutely terrified.

I went down to breakfast and I couldn't eat, so I went to practise and I just couldn't get a ball in court.

HOW SHE WON IT
R1 N Gregory 6-3 6-3
R2 C Perea 7-5 7-6
R3 M Simionescu 7-5 2-6 6-1
QF R Marsikova 4-6 6-2 8-6
SF V Ruzici 6-3 1-6 6-2
F R Tomanova 6-2 0-6 6-2
I suppose it must be true that if you have a bad practice, you'll probably have a good match!

I beat Renata Tomanova in the final, but my celebrations weren't exactly over the top - I remember walking off thinking 'great, that's the first one down'.

I had only just turned 20 and I just always felt that I would win Grand Slams - it was just a case of when - so when I won the French Open, it was more a sense of relief.

Had I known that I would never win another one, I probably would have gone out and painted Paris red!

As it was, I did my press conference, had some champagne with some of the British journalists and then flew home to see my Mum and Dad - not very glamorous!

But it was a big story in the press and I did all sorts of television chat shows and news programmes afterwards.

I'm still incredibly proud of what I achieved.

My only slight regret is that I would have liked to have beaten Chris Evert on the way to the trophy - but like they always say, you can only beat what's put in front of you.


Sue Barker will present live coverage of the French Open finals on the weekend of 5/6 June on Grandstand on BBC Two.



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